Surrounded by gorgeous beaches and stunning rainforests, Byron Bay was created for outdoor fun. If you’re keen to work up a sweat in this east coast Australian paradise – and tick off a few next-level wildlife encounters while you’re at it – here are eight activities to add to your itinerary.
What better way to welcome a new day than to watch the sunrise? In Byron Bay, you can be among the first people in Australia to enjoy it by making your way to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, perched on Australia’s easternmost point. To get here, you’ll need to take the Cape Byron walking track, a 3.7-kilometre (2.3-mile) loop from Captain Cook’s Beach. If you’re setting out from town, it’s 3km (1.9mi) one-way from the Byron Bay Surf Life Saving Club at Main Beach. The views from the lighthouse are something else, and there’s a good chance of spotting dolphins and wallabies, too. If you’re visiting between April and October, look out for humpback whales.
Byron Bay’s surf beaches are legendary, with a variety of surf spots suitable for varying skill levels. If you’re a newbie, signing up for a lesson with one of Byron’s many surf schools is the best way to get a taste of this favourite local pastime. Surf guides choose the best spots for beginners depending on the day’s conditions, with classes often held at Captain Cook’s and The Pass. If you’re looking to rent a board, brush up on surf etiquette before you hit the surf.
Among the incredible array of wildlife that call Byron home throughout the year are hundreds of bottlenose dolphins. If you’re lucky, you might spot a couple from the beach or while you’re out surfing, particularly at Wategos, but the best way to get up close to these playful marine mammals is on a kayaking tour with Go Sea Kayak Byron Bay or Cape Byron Kayaks, both of which have mobile offices at Clarkes Beach. Tours run for around two to three hours, and take you to the spots where dolphins love to hang out, typically in groups of 10-20. If you’re visiting during whale season, you might even get to see bigger cetaceans up close, too.
The East Australian Current fosters a unique underwater environment at Julian Rocks Nguthungulli Nature Reserve, marked by the cluster of rocky islets that can be seen jutting out of the sea, 2.5km (1.6mi) off Main Beach, in which tropical and cold-water marine species cohabit. This popular diving and snorkelling spot offers up a bounty of different marine life depending on the season, with summer bringing beautifully patterned leopard sharks, and huge grey nurse sharks arriving in winter. Year-round, you can also expect to see green turtles, eagle and manta rays, wobbegong sharks, and huge blue groupers, along with hard and soft corals. Sundive Byron Bay and Byron Bay Dive Centre can take you there.
An hour’s drive drive west of Byron, Nightcap National Park is the place to put your hiking boots to good use. While there aren’t many trails in this ancient wilderness, which forms part of the Gondwana Forests of Australia World Heritage Area, the most popular option – the Minyon Falls walking track – is pretty incredible. Starting at the Minyon Falls lookout, this stunning 13km (8mi) loop takes you down through a subtropical rainforest to the base of the 100m-high (328ft) waterfall, where you can take a refreshing dip before making your way back up to the parking area. Pack plenty of water and sunscreen.
It might seem a bit ’80s, but there’s no doubt that hang-gliding is one of the most incredible ways to experience Byron. Admire the cape from sea eagle-level on a 30-minute tandem flight with Byron Airwaves Hang Gliding School, with gliders taking off from the ramp just below the Cape Byron Lighthouse. Other options to experience Byron from above include hot-air ballooning with Byron Bay Ballooning or, for the ultimate thrill, throwing yourself out of a plane 15,000 feet (4,500 metres) above the bay with Skydive Byron Bay.
Once upon a time you could ride camels along Byron Bay’s beaches, but riding a horse along the water’s edge is still a pretty cool experience. There are several ranches in the Byron area offering rides for various abilities, with Zephyr horses including an option that takes you along a stunning forest trail before you hit the sand. If you’re planning to go big on the ‘gram with this experience, consider booking their photography package.
An easy, 1.6km (1mi) return walk perfect for people of all ages and fitness levels, the Three Sisters walking track in Broken Head Nature Reserve, 10km (6mi) south of Byron, serves up more superb coastal views along with fascinating Aboriginal history. Weaving through coastal rainforest before ending at a scenic lookout, the walk is named for the rocks that can be seen just off the headland. Look out for the information panels that detail the Aboriginal story behind them, which tells the tale of three sisters who were turned into stone after being swept away by a strong current. Today, Bundjalung people tell this story as a warning to children. Along with dolphins and whales, keep your eyes peeled for local resident Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor).
This is an updated version of an article by Josh Stewart.